Monday, September 21, 2020


Hey hey! The first place Cubs beat the Bucs 5-0 in Pittsburgh on Monday night behind a quality start from Jon Lester (6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H), 2 RBI from Kyle Schwarber, and a great RBI bunt single from El Mago.

The series continues Tuesday at PNC Park. 54 games down, 6 to go.

The Cards lost to the Royals, so the number dropped twice tonight! Looking for more detail about the CMN? Scroll down.



Q:  But aren't the Cards only playing 58 games this season?  And doesn't that impact the CMN?

A:  Not necessarily.

MLB has reserved the right to have the Cards make up their two missed games in case those games would have an impact on playoff berths. That's looking quite possible considering how tight the race is for both 2nd place in the NL Central and the two NL Wild Card berths. So, as we've done all season long, unless MLB officially cancels those games, we're basing the CMN on St. Louis playing a full 60-game season.

Q:  What's the Cubs Magic Number against the Reds (or Brewers, or Pirates)?

A:  Who cares?  Okay, just kidding.  Kind of.

This site is dedicated to the CMN for winning the NL Central Division. (During seasons in which the Cubs' only path to the playoffs is via a Wild Card berth, this site calculates that CMN.)

Since the Cards currently have the fewest losses of all Cubs' opponents, they're the only team that currently matters in the CMN calculations. Of course, that could change this week, if the Reds or Brewers get to a point where they have fewer losses than the Cards do.  In that case, that team would be the only team that matters in the CMN calculations. (But if not knowing is keeping you up at night, keep reading.)

Q:  What's the Cubs Magic Number to guarantee a playoff berth?

A:  Again, that's not why we're here. 

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Cubs hold off on popping the champagne corks (or the sparkling cider) before they win the division. They didn't have a big locker room celebration in 2018 when they secured a playoff berth -- their eyes were on the NL Central title. (Here's hoping the 2020 division standings wind up better than they did in '18...) Ask yourself this:  do you think Jon Lester has his eyes set on a Wild Card berth or on a division title (and home field advantage in the playoffs)?

But ... you could apply the CMN formula (below) to the 2nd best NL team that isn't currently in 1st or 2nd place in its division to help answer the question.

As of this writing, that's the Brewers, Reds, Phillies, and (probably, since they're down 7-1 in the 7th) the Giants with 27 losses apiece. (Don't want do to the math?  Keep reading.)

Q:  Do the Cubs have to win four more games to win the division?

A:  Not necessarily.

The Cubs Magic Number is calculated using this formula:

CMN = (# of regular season games) + 1 - (# of Cubs wins) - (# of losses by NL Central opponent with the fewest losses)

As of this writing, that's 60 + 1 - 32 - 25 = 4.

So, any combination of Cubs wins and Cards losses that totals four does the trick.

Q:  What's up with the + 1 in the CMN formula?

A:  In short, ya gotta be one game better than your best division rival.

In order to win the division outright, the Cubs have to finish with one more win than the next best division opponent. So if the Cubs went 60-0 and the next best division opponent also went 60-0, the Cubs wouldn't win the division outright. They'd need one more victory ... or one more opponent's loss. So at the start of the season, the CMN is always one more than the number of regular season games.  (And yes, we know that two NL Central teams can't both have perfect records.)

But that +1 is not limited to the start of the season, since the CMN is about winning the division outright and not tying for the best record in the division.

Let's talk best case scenarios for each NL Central opponent from here on out:

If the Bucs win out, they'd finish 21-39 and would have fewer wins than the Cubs currently do (32).  So, they're already eliminated from the NL Central title race.

If the Reds win out, they'd finish 33-27. So, if the Cubs win 2 more games, they'd have more wins than the Reds could possibly have, and would eliminate the Reds from division title contention. Or a Cubs win and a Reds loss, etc. So, E = 2. (And, for those who hung in there, also the CMN to guarantee at least a Wild Card berth.)

If the Brewers win out, they'd finish 33-27.  So, if the Cubs win 2 more games this season, they'd have more wins than the Brewers could possibly have, and would eliminate the Brewers from the NL Central title race. Of course, if the Brewers lose one more, it'd only take a Cubs win to eliminate them. 2 Brewers' losses would also do the trick. So their elimination number for the division title is also 2 (E = 2). 

If the Cards win out (assuming a 60-game schedule; see above), they'd finish 35-25. So, if the Cubs win 4 more games, they'd finish with more wins than the Cards could possibly have and would eliminate the Cards from the division title race. Or 3 Cubs wins and a Cards loss. Or 2 and 2, etc. E = 4.

(Note:  all of these calculations are based on winning the division outright; none of these calculations take into account MLB's 2020 playoff tiebreakers.  The Cubs won the season series against the Reds, which is the first tiebreaker.  The Cubs tied the season series with both the Brewers and Cardinals but currently hold the edge in the second tiebreaker, division record, against both of those teams as well as against the Giants and Phillies.)

So, at this point, the Cards are the "toughest" team to eliminate from the division title race. And it would take four Cubs wins (or 3 Cubs wins and 1 Cards loss, or 2 and 2, etc.) to do so. Or:

4 = 60 + 1 - 32 - 25

Trust the formula, folks.  We've got this.


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